Three bricklayers were working side by side. When asked, “What are you doing?” the first bricklayer replied, “I’m laying bricks.” The second bricklayer was asked and he answered, “Feeding my family.” The third bricklayer when asked the question, “What are you doing?” responded, “I’m building a cathedral.”
This story illustrates the power of purpose. In a previous post I suggested that we are all in the customer service business, and I posed some questions to help teams see linkages between what they do and how that impacts customers and the company. The reason this is so important is because purpose leads to employee engagement, which leads to profitability.
To maximize our personal satisfaction and employee engagement, we need three ingredients: purpose, autonomy, and mastery. (See Daniel Pink’s explanation in this video.) As leaders we must work relentlessly to break down barriers to allow our people the freedom to thrive.
To help people understand the purpose of their work, leaders link tasks to outcomes and benefits. Some people see linkages naturally, while others require leaders to communicate the purpose of the work. When leaders help define the purpose (and mastery and autonomy), they release each person’s natural energy and passion, and employee engagement increases.
Engagement relates to profits because tapping into this unseen source of intrinsic motivation takes advantage of the causal relationship between engagement and financial performance. A Gallup study observed a two-step relationship:
“What we’re able to do in this study is look not just at engagement and financial performance but also look at two mediating variables: employee turnover and customer perceptions. We’re able to look at the path from employee engagement to those two outcomes that then lead to financial performance.”
The questions I posed in the earlier post remain:
- How does your role serve customers? If you stopped doing what you do, how would customer service be damaged? Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral?
- How could you connect the work you do with serving and supporting customers? Can you articulate how you “help the customer?”
Answer these questions to find a purpose. Answer these questions to unleash your passion, creativity, and motivation. Answer these questions to improve profitability.